RAF LAKENHEATH — To provide European countries with the chance to keep an eye on militaries in neighboring countries and prevent conflict in the region, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty was signed in 1990.
Today, there are 30 signatory nations on the arms-control treaty that allows each nation to inspect declared sites in European territories from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains.
“It prevents countries from massing forces on borders, which is always one of the first ingredients for a potential conflict,” said Army Lt. Col. Robert Williams, a team chief with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, out of Darmstadt, Germany.
The joint-service agency provides arms control operations in support of the CFE treaty as well as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
Williams, who was at the airbase for a treaty inspection exercise, described the CFE treaty as making nations transparent to others.
“Everybody knows who has what and where it is,” he said.
The one-day exercise, held Thursday, allowed Williams’ team of escorts and airbase personnel to test their skills at hosting an inspection put on by a team from Kazakhstan.
The six-member Kazakh team was given a one-hour briefing on the airbase’s troop strength as well as numbers of jet aircraft and helicopters.
The treaty limits the amount of equipment that a signatory nation can possess in an area of application. This equipment ranges from tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, according to Andrew Baker, a 48th Fighter Wing regional arms control official.
RAF Lakenheath is the only U.S. declared inspection site under the CFE treaty in the U.K., Baker said.
Besides the airbase’s aircraft, escorts also permitted the Kazakh team to tour munitions sites in order to comply with another CFE treaty regulation, which states that doors two meters or wider and containers two meters or larger on three sides must be open and ready for inspection, Baker said.
Col. Amangeldy Aubakirov, the Kazakh inspector team chief, spoke of how the inspection exercise benefited his team.
“When we’re conducting the training inspections, they’re good help for our inspectors and experts. They will know how to deal with inspections in a real environment,” he said through a translator.
Russia recently made headlines by declaring a moratorium on the CFE treaty amid tensions between the country and NATO member states, according to news reports.
In 1999, the CFE treaty was amended to cater to an ever-changing European environment. Thus far, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine are the only nations to ratify the changes, while other nations refuse to approve them until Russia withdraws it troops from Georgia and Moldova, according to the reports.